Troubled times for block makers

While many contractors are experiencing touchy trading conditions, spare a thought for the manufacturers. A report from BDS Marketing Research Ltd. has revealed that Britain's CBP manufacturers are having their worst spell for more than a decade, and production has dropped below 20 million square metres, the sort of quantity that was being churned out in the early 1990s and a worryingly low figure given the amount of public dosh being splurged on all sorts of infrastructure works, including the fabled Olympics in that London.

The BDS report makes an educated estimate of the output from all the British plants, documents plant closures (along with the smaller number of openings) and rounds off with a three year forecast for the industry.

block pavers
Not exactly flying out of the Builders' Yards

Eight plant closures were identified, said to represent around 12% of previous "flat out" capacity, and with sales collapsing by an estimated 22%, production is being cut back at the remaining plants to ensure yard stock is maintained at "manageable levels". The alleged 'economic recovery' cannot come too quickly to ensure orders pick-up again and further plants are not mothballed or closed completely.

BDS forecasts that the rate of attrition will soon start to bottom-out. Amid much-vaunted claims of a recuperating housing market, the commercial sector remains subdued. However, by summer of next year, the forecast reckons sales will be on the up and the trend is expected to continue into 2011. The big, nasty black cloud on the horizon, though, is the inevitable government belt-tightening following the UK election in 2010 which is expected to rein in capital expediture with the impact beginning to be felt from 2012 onwards.

The consultancy company reckons Marshalls are still cock-of-the-walk, topping production levels in half of the nation's ten economic regions, while a resurgent Brett, along with Aggregate Industries, Plasmor and the dizzy Cemex outfit complete the top five. Between them, these manufacturers account for around 87% of the British market, with eight other companies making up the also-rans. The south east of England and the West Midlands are recorded as net importers of CBPs while East Midlands and SW England are the main exporting regions.